Grocery store debate continues in Arroyo Grande
January 25, 2011
After much controversy, developer Nick Tompkins is again on the Arroyo Grande City Council agenda in another attempt to get approval for a proposed grocery store at East Grand Avenue and South Courtland Street.
Council members are scheduled to revisit the issue on Tuesday, Jan. 25, starting at 7 p.m. in the Arroyo Grande City Hall.
During the second half of 2010, Tompkins attempted to get approval to put in a 50,881-square-foot Food 4 Less grocery store. The City Council rebuked his attempt after numerous residents spoke out against the project.
Tompkins’ current proposal includes a restaurant, two commercial buildings and a 35,786-square-foot grocery store.
More than 5,000 locals signed a petition asking the council to reject the project.
Carol Florence, a representative for Tompkins, said a survey conducted by San Luis Obispo-based Opinion Studies shows that there is a need for an additional grocery store in the area.
Callers polled 200 Arroyo Grande residents and 200 residents from Grover Beach, Oceano and Nipomo. Their survey concluded that 65 percent of the public support a Food 4 Less in Arroyo Grande.
“The 5,000 plus signatures is more indicative of what the community wants than the 200 Arroyo Grande called in Tompkins’ survey,” said Spencer Market owner Beatrice Spencer.
The Tompkins’ survey also determined that the Cookie Crock Warehouse, a grocery store, which sits a few blocks east of the proposed store on Grand Avenue, stands to lose the most business to a new discount grocery.
Tompkins also owns the shopping center that includes the Cookie Crock Warehouse. About a year and a half ago, Tompkins offered to buy out the Cookie Crock Warehouse owners’ 30 year lease, so that he could redevelop the property.
Both Tompkins’ current project and the Cookie Crock Warehouse shopping center sit in the city’s redevelopment zone. State redevelopment funds provide financial assistance to cities and developers who redeveloped zone properties dubbed blighted.
Gov. Jerry Brown has announced plans to cancel state redevelopment funding in his efforts to help balance the state budget.
Several opponents of the project contend that Tompkins is attempting to put a low-cost grocery in an area that is already saturated with grocery stores because he is hoping to force the Arroyo Grande Cookie Crock Warehouse out of business.
“There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Nick and the city have had many discussions about redoing our shopping center without us,” said Cookie Crock owner Del Clegg. “Here is a chase after a few tax dollars, and the city gives up the integrity of good planning.”
“The redevelopment money is not a major motivator,” said Steve Adams, Arroyo Grande city manager.
Adams said, the city currently gets $1.6 million per year from the state for their redevelopment agency. The city spends the funds on developer’ costs and pays the city’s redevelopment agency’s staff salaries.
If Brown is successful in disbanding redevelopment agencies, the city would still receive about $600,000 per year money in previously designated funding, Adams said.
Both Foster and the project’s planner, Florence, said that plans to redevelop the Cookie Crock Market and the plans for the Courtyard project are unrelated.
“The whole back and forth between Tompkins wanting to put Cookie Crock out of business is not anything that would have anything to do with putting this project through,” said Ryan Foster, Arroyo Grande associated planner.
Opponents of the project claim the developer already has a tenant in mind, an arm of Food 4 Less, the chain’s Hispanic format, Rancho San Miguel.
“We have no tenants, zero,” Florence said. “It would be lovely to have an anchor. The building is such that it could include two or three tenants.”